The WTF! Show

The Koss Portapro: Great Portable Cans

February 5th, 2007 · 4 Comments

Koss Portapro

Since I started podcasting, one of the things I buy a lot of are headphones. You end up with headphones for all kinds of purposes, depending you need them for casual listening or for monitoring sound in the studio.

And let me tell you, once you start using good ones, you cannot go back to crappy ones anymore. I am currently using a new pair of Koss Portapro portable headphones for leisure listening and they rock.

Koss Portapro 2

These are made in 1988, which explains the retro (ok, some say dorky) look, but dammit they sound great. These are Open headphones, which give me a fuller sound, but they can’t be used in our recording studio for monitoring because the sound leaks. You need Closed headphones for that (and also heaphones that give you an unbiased flat response). However for leisure listening, these Portapros give a punchy bass without sacrificing the mids and highs, and they fold up nicely for carrying around.

The headband does have a tendency of pinching my hair and yanking a few out if I am not careful (when you get to my age, you have to be careful not to lose what hair you have left!). Adjust the band BEFORE wearing, and not while they are on your head, or else sure botak.

I can wear them all day, they are that comfortable. The additional foam pads with adjustable pressure switches (called “Comfort Zone”) that Koss uses on this headphone keeps the pressure off the head, so you get a good fit without the headache.

The unit comes with a quarter-inch plug and leather carrying case. Frequency response is 15-25,000 Hz which means really good reproduction of low and high frequencies. The 103 dB SPL/1mW sensitivity means the Portapro’s are easy to drive on portable music players. Sure the sound is coloured, but in a good way. These would not be accurate for studio monitoring, but great for listening to music. I love the incredible clarity, just-nice bass, and natural sound.


In the course of auditioning portable headphones, I also tried the Sennheiser PX100 and PX200 portable headphones, as well as the AKG K 24 P. The Sennheiser PX100 is very close to the Portapro in sound quality and amazing clarity, better looking and about $10 cheaper, but the bass seems stronger on the Portapro. It took Sennheiser 10 years to come up with something to match the venerable Portapro in sound though.

PX 200

The PX200, you may think, is a better model because of the higher number, but actually, the sound of the PX100 is way better, I suspect because the PX100 is an open-back while the PX200 is closed-backed. The mids and highs on the PX200 are muddy. If you need a pair of closed headphones that fold, then take the PX200, if you want better sound, stick with the PX100 or Portapro. The leather pads on the PX200 were nice though. And the PX series comes with a hard case for storage, which is good if you want protection, bad if you don’t like bulk.

AKG k24p

The closed-back AKG K24P I tried was a little disappointing too. Cool folding mechanism, but lacked clarity. Bass was good though but I found it a bit lacking in punch.


In the end, I chose the Koss Portapro over the PX100. They don’t have the isolation of my Shure E2C earplugs but I can wear them for longer comfortably and the sound is way better than the Shures. I find the E2C great for sound isolation, but the sound is so-so. At about $89, the Portapro is the best money I have ever spent on headphones, next to the money I spent on my Sennheiser HD280 studio monitors.


One of the earliest headphones I picked up for the mrbrown show was the venerable Sennheiser HD280 Silver (which is the same as the black HD 280 Pro). This is a closed-back headphone we use to monitor sound in the studio. It is a great headphone and despite having a flat, uncoloured, unexaggerated response across a wide frequency range, and being meant for monitoring, the sound is so good and accurate, I ended up using it for listening to music too. There are no excessive bass or highs, so if that is what you are looking for, forget it.

hd280 v2

It folds flat or into a ball, and while not very portable, it is quite ok to take along for trips.


Our new studio is also equipped with Audio-Technica ATH-M30 headphones for the cast to listen to themselves. These are also professional studio monitors, but at about $65, are priced much lower than the HD 280’s $230 price tag. The M30s are good value for closed flat-response studio monitors.


Lastly, we also use a Sennheiser HD201 for the cast. It is not a studio monitor, but are closed-back, and the sound is surprisingly good for a $40 pair of headphones. If you are looking for a good pair of closed headphones for casual listening, the HD201 is excellent value.

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